This Rock and Roller I have met several times and he is one of my favourites. I had just left Earl Haig Collegiate and was hired at Texaco Canada Limited. Now Texaco was in Downtown Toronto, (I lived in the ‘burbs) on one of the most upscale streets in Toronto: Bloor Street.
One night a group of us from work, I think it was 1960 or 61, went to the Concord Tavern (on Bloor Street W) to see a Rock group called ‘Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks’.
The twist was cranking up and after the first time I saw Ronnie I was a fan. Now in Ronnie’s history, he moved up from the States to Ontario, Canada, married a Toronto Girl and discovered the best musicians in existence.
In his book Ronnie wrote that Harold Jenkins (Conway Twitty) had encouraged him to come to Toronto. After his arrival in Toronto he said that he had “found some of the best musicians in the world, they just did not know it”.
Now his original band, The Hawks, was no slouch, but Ronnie went through a lot of musicians. His most significant group from Toronto went on to become “The Band“.
At one point, he had even asked me if I would like to be a sax player in his group – but at that time I was a bit “chicken” and preferred to continue with my good day job in the exciting computer field. – Russ
The original Hawks from Arkansas of course were, Ronnie, Levon Helm, Will “Pop” Jones, Jimmy Ray Paulman plus others. For a man that never really made it big he certainly discovered some incredible musicians.
Being from Toronto I got to see them all, but remember a young David Fosters was once a Hawk. His cousin was the late Dale Hawkins (Susie Q). Now one of the people I grew up with in Toronto.
All of the critics agree that the concert of the Nineties was in 1995 at Toronto’s Massey Hall, it was Ronnie’s 60th Birthday celebration, get the DVD it is fantastic, I was there and own the DVD.
Since then we have lost Carl Perkins, Jeff Healey, Rick Danko and the list goes on from that famous concert.
Ronald “Ronnie” Hawkins
(born January 10, 1935)
“Rompin’ Ronnie” / “The Hawk”
For all those people who think Michael Jackson developed the Moon Walk, think again and look back to the late fifties and Ronnie Hawkins:
1959 / Dick Clark Show / 40 Days /
1959 / Mary Lou /
2006 / Mary Lou /
I think this video starts at about 1962, either in London Ontario or Toronto, but an explanation from a Young Ronnie Hawkins, why he decided to stay in Canada:
His Billboard Chart Success was limited.
He charted on Billboard only twice, both in 1959:
1. Forty Days (He added 10 days to a Chuck Berry Song) reached # 45
2. Mary Lou (a Buddy Knox Song) reached 26.
Both of these where for Roulette. But he recorded a lot more songs – he made 7 albums for Roulette and two of them where just fantastic.
I will give you some of the music from those early albums. This would be prior to Toronto, “The Band”, etc. He had Levon Helm, Jimmy Ray Paulman(Luke), Will “Pop” Jones and others. The first three came to Canada with Ronnie, but only lasted a few years. He then moved on to some of the finest musicians that Rock has seen.
I loved his early recordings:
1. Dizzy Miss Lizzy
2. Baby Jean
3. Need your Lovin’
4. Sick and Tired
5. Honey Don’t
6. Thirty days (recorded in Toronto with the original Hawks)
Toronto Recordings, different musicians, but mainly Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and the lone American Levon Helm.
1. Bo Diddley
2. Who do you Love
4. Days gone by
5. Let it Rock
The last song is the only one from the famous 1995 Concert. Listen to the lineup: Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Band, (Lawrence) Gowan, Jeff Healey, Ronnie’s son and daughter plus one of the best horn sections I have witnessed.
Ronnie Hawkins, born January 10, 1935 in Huntsville, Arkansas, United States, is a pioneering rock and roll musician and cousin to fellow rockabilly pioneer Dale Hawkins. Known as “Rompin’ Ronnie” Hawkins or “The Hawk,” he was a key player in the 1960s rock scene in Toronto and for the next 40 years, performed all over North America, recording more than twenty-five albums. His best-known hits are “Forty Days” and “Mary Lou” (about the song narrator’s experiences with a gold digging woman), both were major hits for him in 1959.
At the age of nine, his family moved to nearby Fayetteville. After graduating from high school, he studied physical education at the University of Arkansas where he formed his first band, The Hawks, touring with them throughout Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Hawkins also owned and operated the Rockwood Club in Fayetteville where some of Rock music’s earliest pioneers came to play including Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty.
In 1958, he moved to Canada with the Hawks and made Peterborough, Ontario his permanent home. Gradually the members of the Hawks, except for Levon Helm, were replaced with talented Canadians Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson. This was the line-up that was to later become The Band.
His 1984 LP, ‘Making It Again’, garnered him a Juno Award as Canada’s best Country Male Vocalist. Playing with The Band, Hawkins helped tear down the Berlin Wall in 1989 and performed at President Bill Clinton’s 1992 inaugural party. In addition to his music, he has also become an accomplished actor, hosting his own television show “Honky Tonk” in the early 1980s and appearing in such films as Heaven’s Gate with his friend Kris Kristofferson and Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.
October 4, 2002 was declared “Ronnie Hawkins Day” by the city of Toronto when Hawkins was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in recognition of his lifetime contribution to music and his generous support of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario and other charitable organizations. Ronnie Hawkins was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame at the Canadian Music Industry Awards on March 4, 2004. His pioneering contribution to the genre has also been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
In recent years, Ronnie Hawkins had reportedly been battling pancreatic cancer. His allegedly miraculous recovery, attributed to everything from psychic healers to native herbal medicine, is featured in the film Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kicking.
In 2005, he was awarded an honorary degree from Laurentian University.
Ronnie Hawkins – 40 Days (Live on Lake Minnetonka)